Saturday, 28 April 2007

Wedding invitations

I got a call from Kathryn to say the wedding invites were ready for collection. The one she finally decided on after proofs going back and to to London has a small art decor, red rose on pure white embossed paper. Very classy. I'm not looking forward to writing the names in though. I can write nicely when I try but I'm so used to scribbling, its such an effort to write legibly.

Only the flowers are left to organise. Kathryn doesn't seem very interested in the flowers. We've visited a few florists, but nothing was ordered. The woman who does the flowers in church rang last week to say she is on holiday the week of the wedding. We will have to sort it out when Kathryn and Aaron come up for my 60th. There's still 5 months to go. Aghh only 5 months.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 27 April 2007


Last Friday I went to see Mary's two and a half week old puppies on my day off. They are Samoyeds, Siberian huskies, with a pedigree miles long. Their parents were show dogs, their mother, Kimi, won Best of Breed at Crufts, so Mary proudly informed me. I don't know how she keeps the dogs' long snow white coats so clean. They are beautiful, but they don't look doggy enough for me. Apparently they don't smell doggy either.

The puppies' hair was only just starting to grow. They lolled about in their pen, trying to walk, tumbling over and immediately falling asleep. The tiniest of the puppies, although Mary insists he wasn't the runt, refused to feed at birth and was half the size of his chubby siblings. Mary was feeding him with a dropper and she let me have a go. It felt strange holding that tiny scrap of life in my hand. So vulnerable, so dependent, and faintly reminiscent of holding my babies. I wanted to take him home with me, but along with his brothers and sisters, he's already sold.

I christened him, Scrappy, much to Mary's displeasure. Not realising my gaff. You don't call the descendant of pedigree show dogs Scrappy. On Tuesday at Tai Chi she told me that she'd christened him with some very grand name that I can't even remember. He's Scrappy to me.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 22 April 2007

No Kids

Kathryn has been agonising since day one whether to allow young children at the wedding. It's been an on/off decision. She rang me yesterday to tell me that the invitations were ready. The final decision on the guest list has to be made. She doesn't want young kids there because she's not used to them. She has no kids herself and because of her travels she's never really bonded with the kids she knows. I agreed with her. They always cry at the most touching part of the service, they make a mess and throw food everywhere and they cause a fuss and run madly around the reception, getting under everyone's feet, unless they've got parents who keep strict control, which no one does any more. I don't know why anyone would want to bring them. But Kathryn is such a sensitive person she didn't feel right telling her friends that they would have to make alternative arrangements.

"It's your wedding. It's your big day." I said. "There'll be enough stresses without worrying about kids that aren't yours. If they are good friends they'll respect your wishes and get babysitters."
"You're right," she said. "I've never wanted to have small kids there. I've spoken to loads of other women who banned kids, but when I discussed it with Aaron he seemed to think it was a bit mean to veto them, as we'll have kids one day."
"Yes, and you can leave them with me. Make a decision now and stick with it," I told her.
"I have," she said. "No kids."

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Tai Chi

I returned to Tai Chi this week after three weeks' absence. Mary, my Tai Chi friend, had become the proud owner of five puppies. She invited me to see them.

I've been doing Tai Chi for nearly six years. It was something I'd always been interested in and when Kath, my boss at work said a class was starting at the leisure centre we decided to go together. I've stuck at Tai Chi longer than any other hobby or interest I've had. I should be good after six years, but I don't practice. When I first started going I'd practice every day, but now I just do it once a week at the session.

Dorothy the CBT women, said I should do ten minutes every morning to get me going, and concentrate my mind. She's right and I'm going to do what she suggests.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 19 April 2007

CBT second session

I was anxious to get started on the therapy, but we talked at length again about Jon and my adoption.
"It was when I first held Jon in my arms and experienced that rush of all encompassing love that I felt complete. Now I had something that was really mine, that shared my genes and was part of me," I said.
Dorothy looked at me nodding in an appropriately sympathetic manner.
"It's difficult to explain, that void. It's still there, and probably always will be. It's the given away feeling. No matter what the circumstances surrounding your birth were, or however good or bad your present life is, you can't get passed it. You were given away."
"Yes," she said.
"Perhaps that's why I was so obsessed with Jon and Kathryn. I wanted them to be successful. When you give birth to a child, you have such hopes and dreams for their future, but it doesn't always turn out as you planned," I said thinking of Jon. You shouldn't expect your children to fulfill your frustrated ambitions, to be what you weren't. I don't think I ever did that. I just wanted them to have a better life. I don't think I was a pushy mum. I asked Kathryn that once and she said I was very supportive, not pushy. When it first happened, Jon's arrest, I blamed Jon for his hedonism and lack of regard for us, then I blamed myself, and then I blamed Dan, and Kathryn for being the favourite, and then I blamed the world and everything in it, and finally I came to terms with it. It took me a long time, but I've accepted it. You have no choice. It's either give up and go crazy, pretend it never happened, or do something positive. I've tried to act positively to help him, and have succeeded in a lot of ways. Now, it just makes me sad."
"Do you still think negatively towards Jon?"
"Well, sometimes negative thoughts do creep in, but I try to dismiss them. I'm not proud of his crime," I said, looking down, avoiding her glance. "The opposite. But I'm very proud of the way he's handled prison. He's not felt sorry for himself. He's kept out of trouble, but most of all he's used his sentence to improve himself."
"In what way?"
"Educationally, spiritually, emotionally. The therapy sessions with the psychiatrist have helped him to understand his extreme behaviour. If he can recognise these destructive behaviour patterns, then he can develop strategies to deal with them."
"He's lucky to have so much love and support."
"That was never an issue for me or Dan, or Kathryn. He's our son and we would have stood by him no matter what."

"When do the negative thoughts start?" she asked.
"The minute I open my eyes. The mornings are the worst time. I can't get myself out of bed."
"The bed can be very comforting."
"It's not. I'm not lying there thinking how nice is this, I'm so warm and cosy. I'm lying there thinking negative thoughts, and then I feel guilty for having the negative thoughts, and then I look at the clock and realise I'm going to be late which creates more negative thoughts, which makes it harder to get out of bed. When I finally drag myself from between the sheets I'm sluggish. On work days, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I set the alarm for 6.30 even though I don't leave the house until just before 9.00 because it takes me so long to get myself together. I sit on the edge of the bath unable to move, feeling sad, ruminating. On my days off, its worse because I don't have to get up."
"How do you feel when you get to work?"
"I have feelings of anxiety before the class, but once I'm in I enjoy it. I love teaching and I like my students. I have to be upbeat and that does me good. It makes me get myself together."
"Yes, it's very positive, that you can do that. What don't you like about your job?"
"The endless paperwork. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I have to do it well, so I put pressure on myself and get very stressed. We are having an observation soon, and I'm getting stressed about it already."
"Is it very important?"
"Yes, but I always get a high grade. Last year I got a grade 1."
"I'm not surprised when you put so much work in. You need to relax more. Does it matter so much if you don't get a grade 1?"
"No. I'm nearly sixty. What can they do?"

She handed me a piece of A4 with four oval shapes drawn on it. Above each shape a word was written, thoughts, emotions behaviour, physical. "These are the four buttons," she explained. "They affect each other and create a vicious circle of negativity."

She wrote down some of my thoughts in the first egg shape and the resulting emotions in the next, the behaviour resulting from the emotions, and the physcial effect came last. For homework, I have to write down my thoughts and how they make me feel emotionally and physically, in a sort of diary.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Wig and glasses

A package arrived today. I thought it was just another package of forms for Dan, who runs his own insurance business from home. "Dan, the postman's knocking," I shouted. "Will you deal with it, I'm in the kitchen?" "Yeah!" he said, and I could hear him running down the stairs.

I was stirring my porridge, thinking deeply about its health benefits, when I was tapped on the shoulder. Jumping nervously and turning around I was confronted by a tall hippy. "Hi man," it mumbled. I was fooled for one short second. But I quickly realised it was Dan wearing a thick shoulder length wig made of nylon, together with tinted John Lennon glasses and a CND tee-shirt and medallion. He looked so funny. We fell about laughing.
"I'm sorted for your party now, except I need to let an extra piece in the flare on my old jeans."
"Lizzy will do that for you on her machine." I don't do sewing.
"This party's going to be funny. How could anyone have a serious conversation with you while you're wearing that wig."

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 16 April 2007

Ologies woman

It's the last and shortest and busiest of the three terms. Exams to arrange, portfolios to mark and assess, and our team has not yet had their yearly observations which have to be done before the end of term.

I do community teaching. My classes are held in schools and community centres and my students are mostly young mums, who put their children into nursery, infants or primary school and come in to me for 2 to 3 hours.

They call me the Ologies woman. I teach an introduction to psychology, sociology and criminology. Criminology has given me some problems since Jon's arrest, especially when I get students saying things like, all drug dealers should be hung, drawn and quartered, which seems to be the general consensus of opinion. A sinking feeling starts in my stomach, but I have to cut out my personal feelings and be objective. It's a bit like being on stage, being a teacher. You put on an act. They don't know about Jon, even though it's been in the local paper, which makes it easier. They don't associate me with drugs.

I love this kind of teaching as I feel I'm making a difference to my students' lives. Most are single parents, who left school with no qualifications, got pregnant early and have never worked. They're a challenge. It gives me a buzz when I can see they're becoming interested, and getting the education bug, realising that there's more to life than having babies.

It doesn't happen with them all. Sometimes there's too many social problems to overcome and although they'd like to continue, education is not a priority. Unsupportive families and friends can stop a student attending with comments such as, What good will that do you? Who do you think you are? You'll be too posh for us soon. Jealous partners, fearing they will lose control of their women if they allow them to become educated, deter women with the threat of mental or physical abuse.

But I've had many successes. Once they gain their confidence, realising they can learn, many of my students go on to other courses in college, some have done full time Access courses and gone to University.

Being from a working class family, I can relate to some of the problems. I got married young and did my degree in my forties. When they tell me they're too old to re-train, I relate my experiences.

What I hate about teaching is the every increasing paperwork.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Another 21st

Last night it was our Goddaughter's 21st. Clare is our next door neighbour but two's child and the party was at their house. It was a warm evening and after a sojourn in the kitchen we sat outside, with Kathryn and Aaron. Kathryn discussed hair styles and hairdressers for the wedding, getting recommendations from the neighbours' wives. The guy who was supposed to do her hair has left our local salon to go on the cruise ships, so we have to scout round for an alternative.

I took the opportunity to suss out what the neighbours will be wearing for my 60th. James, Clare's dad still has hair. With his aura of machismo he just has to be a rocker. I told him he must grow a big greasy quiff with long side burns, and die it black. Although it's abundant it's snow white. I told him, "If you've got it flaunt it. Most of the men are going to have to wear wigs, including Dan. He's sent off for a hippy wig." You've got six weeks before the party to grow it."
James looked enthusiastic saying he had some Brill cream and an old leather jacket somewhere.
Overhearing the conversation was Bill who also still has his hair. "I want to go as George Harrison," he said.
"Great," I said. "Grow your fringe longer and comb it forward. Oh and don't forget the dye bottle. Lynn will do it for you."

The women's outfits are easier as the shops are full of 60's clothes. We discussed hairstyles and 60's makeup. The hairstyle completes the outfit. They are going to have mad 60's bouffant, back-combed hair and loads of black eye makeup.

It was a great party but today I feel wrecked. Two 21st parties on the trot, after just getting back from holiday takes some energy. But it was good while it lasted.

Kathryn and Aaron left for London this morning as he's working this afternoon. I won't see them again until my birthday in June.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Surprise Visit

Aaron is covering the Grand National at Aintree so we got an unexpected visit yesterday. They are here until Sunday. I was in the middle of mounds of holiday washing when they arrived, cheerful and in love. Kathryn commented on how relaxed and happy Dan and I looked. "The break has done you both good," she said.
"I didn't want to come back, which isn't like me. I'm usually glad to get home," I said.
"It's the thought of all the pressure building up again," Dan said.
"That's really good news about Jon, though," Kathryn said trying to maintain a cheerful tone.
"Yes, at last they're are doing something, but I won't relax until I get a firm date for his release."
"You won't relax until he's back home," Dan said.
"Then there's his rehabilitation," I said.
"Don't even think about that," Dan said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

We were invited to my great nephew's 21st party last night, at the Rec where I'm having my 60th. I had another word with Eddie the DJ about 60s music. He told me to compile a list of my 60's favourites. I insisted that he must dress up.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 9 April 2007

Internet Cafe

Called at Internet Cafe and fantastico - we had a reply from Jon´s attorney, Alan . Charlotte, his assistant, has been in touch with ADC (Arizona Department of Corrections) and they are setting up an interview for Jon, in preparation for his release. My initial thoughts were great, but what does this interview entail? We emailed Alan back to find out.

I wrote Jon a long letter.

The holiday has been wonderful. It´s the first time we´ve been away on holiday apart from visiting Jon, since his arrest. In spite of a fortnight's close proximity, there were no fall outs with Peter and Betty. We enjoyed lots of hikes, sunshine, fine dining and good wines.

Will be popping more corks tonight in celebration of ADC news.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
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